Why the Hell?

Photo Credit: Plutor via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Plutor via Compfight cc

It’s Halloween and many people celebrate it by wearing depictions of hell’s denizens — demons, witches, ghosts, zombies, vampires, and so on. As a child I grew up believing in heaven and hell, as taught to me by my elders. As a teen trying to understand my faith, I raised a lot of questions about it, trying to understand how a loving God could create such a cruel fate for the unfortunate souls that get sent there (of course, I wasn’t one of those because I was “saved”).

A friend of mine posted an article entitled “What Kind of God Would Condemn People to Eternal Torment?” by Tim Challies, and it contains the usual sort of justification that moderate or conservative Christians would have of hell. These are the salient points of the argument:

  1. A God who is totally just and holy must necessarily have a hell. Or according to Challies, “God’s goodness doesn’t negate eternal punishment in hell. It demands it.”
  2. The punishment is eternal because humans have sinned against an eternal God. “When you sin against an infinite God…you accrue an infinite debt.”
  3. The punishment must also be conscious and must be in the form of torment because God’s holiness is “unable to tolerate anything or anyone that is unholy” and because all sinners are “active rebels” against God (there are no passive unbelievers) — because the Bible says so.
  4. Challies then concludes by saying that “To wish away eternity in hell is to wish away eternity in heaven. It is not that they exist in some kind of mutual dependence so that one can only exist alongside the other. But sin demands eternal punishment, while grace calls for eternal love and joy, the re-establishment of the good and holy relationship that our Creator intended to enjoy with us forever. How can I believe in a God who condemns people to hell? I must believe in this God, for He poured out the punishment of hell on Jesus Christ through whom I have hope.”

I wholeheartedly disagree on all points.

First, no justice system in any civilized society condones torture and active torment of its criminals. In fact, a better justice system would focus on correction and rehabilitation instead of merely punishment and torment. If someone were to start taking hardened criminals from their cells, and strap them to a table, and burn off their skin with a lighter inch by inch until they die — with no hope of reprieve or redemption, would we see that as an act of justice or as an act of sadistic perversion? Yet millions of people take delight in a God that does that. Why is that so?

The second point may seem to make sense but it really doesn’t. Your debt does not depend on the nature of the debtor but on the debt itself. In other words, if I borrow 20 pesos, then my debt is 20 pesos regardless of whether I borrowed it from a poor man or a wealthy man.

A finite being cannot produce anything infinite, thus his sin is also finite, regardless of whether he commits it to a finite or an infinite being.

The third point is strange because Jesus was supposed to be God and thus holy, yet he was more “a friend of sinners” than those of the so called holy men of his days. So that claim pretty much shoots itself in the head.

Also, it’s quite a stretch calling passive disbelief (or even ignorance) as willful disobedience or active rebellion. It’s such a stretch that the only justification the author has for it is to appeal to the correctness of his holy book, of which he has no proof whatsoever.

The conclusion is wishy-washy — to wish away hell is to wish away heaven, he says. In other words, he is not willing to give up his dream of living it up in paradise for the sake of those suffering eternal damnation. Is this the vaunted, unselfish Christian love that he so self-righteously preaches?

If I were given the choice, I would choose annihilation for everyone in a heartbeat, never mind heaven or hell. Just wipe the slate clean after death. How can I enjoy eternity, singing and dancing in heaven, knowing that some of the people I dearly love are suffering excruciatingly in hell?

So what kind of a God would condemn people to eternal torment?

I have but one answer — the worst kind.

Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Violent Reactions? Send me an email at andy@freethinking.me. View past articles at www.freethinking.me.

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One thought on “Why the Hell?”

  1. Ok. Point by point.
    Christ’s teachings do not take pleasure in the torment of people. How can hell be both dark and have all this fire? Fire stands for judgement of people who have chosen to not spend eternity with God. Their punishment is to know that they rejected the One who loves them more than anyone else ever has or ever could. Would it not be worse for them to spend an eternity with the God that they rejected? People reject God because they love the darkness inside themselves more.
    You often misread things to try to make a point. This point us that God is perfect and holy. If you sin, your sin makes you not perfect and not holy. Jesus has paid for your sins. You can either let Him cleanse your sin and imperfection away or not, meaning you want to have communion with God or not.
    Jesus is a friend to sinners. He also rebuked some sinners. He wanted to give everyone a chance. He rebuked some religious people who used religion for their power or who cared more about religion than God.
    Passive disbelief had to be an active choice at some point, so it is not a stretch. Passive disbelief is a choice to put yourself first.
    People either actively choose God, actively reject Him, or passively reject Him by choosing to worship themselves. How can I be in heaven one day while people I knew are in hell? That is not something I want, but a choice they are making. The worst kind of God I could think of would be one who forces His will on others- making them go to heaven when they don’t want to be there or one who would wipe the slate clean. To have no ultimate meaning (yes, i know, see previous discussion), is just heartless. You must feel very important to think that your choice for how everyone spends eternity us the best. That sounds like the awfully caring individual that you make yourself out to be in so many articles.

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